Honey bee colonies have suffered a rise in decline, and gardeners’ efforts to save our pollinators could be making matters worse.

Bee hives should ideally be situated at ground level

A probe by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) found that 16.2 per cent of UK bee colonies died between October 2011 and April 2012, compared to 13.6 per cent in 2010-11.

The London Beekeepers Association (LBKA) believes gardeners who have taken up bee-keeping could actually be killing bees with their own kindness: it is estimated that there are now up to 30 times the number of colonies than pollen available to feed bees in built-up areas.

An LBKA spokeswoman told AG: “It is time to gently apply the brakes. There are a lot of hives and not enough forage. We need to dispel these whimsical, romantic ideas about keeping bees.

“Beekeepers need to get properly trained. We are run ragged, rushing around helping people who simply don’t have a clue what they’re doing.”

The LBKA also wants to end the fashion for keeping hives on rooftops, as many are too high for bees to use: “This approach is misguided. Bees should fly up towards their forage. It is not natural for bees to nest higher than a tree. They waste energy trying to reach rooftops,” said the LBKA.

The BBKA blamed “queen-related problems,” starvation through lack of food, death from being unable to reach food reserves and weather-related issues for bee loss.

BBKA chairman Dr David Aston said losses of colonies last winter were “unacceptably high”. He said: “There remain other threats such as inappropriate use of pesticides and a lack of medicines to control a number of bee pests.”

The BBKA said last October’s Indian summer and this year’s wet spring affected foraging patterns and may have lead to bee death.

Bee expert Gill Maclean, of the BBKA, said: “There is no single explanation for colony death.

“However, there is going to be a limit in towns and cities, at some stage, of food sources available,” Gill explained.